This past Tuesday, I stood on a sidewalk in Chicago, in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline and calling on the Army Corp of Engineers to put a halt to the construction. It had been one week since the 2016 presidential election.
When no influence is strong enough
To unify people
One against one,
Group against group,
For survival, position, power.
They remember old hates and generate new ones,
They create chaos and nurture it.
They kill and kill and kill,
Until they are exhausted and destroyed,
Until they are conquered by outside forces,
Or until one of them becomes
Most will follow,
Or a tyrant
― The Book of the Living
As the protest came to an end, a man approached us, anxious to explain why he voted for Trump. He told us he was a two-time Obama voter and that he would have voted for Bernie. But he didn’t want to vote for Clinton because she is “corrupt.” “And what is Trump,” I thought to myself, “a shining example of virtue?”
His explanation rang hollow to me. I couldn’t help but notice that the common denominator in his choice of candidates was their gender. Since Clinton was the first female major-party candidate, it may just be a coincidence, but I wondered about the role of unacknowledged misogyny in his vote.
In any case, it seems to me that many of the justifications offered by Trump voters are really code for the desire for change. Certainly, a desire for change seems to be what inspired many of Trump’s voters. Not a few post-election commentators have theorized that Trump’s election represented a vote for change, over a vote for the status quo. Trump styled himself a “change-maker,” while Clinton was the status quo candidate.
How much change is actually coming is any one’s guess. Many of Trump’s selections for his transition team look like business-as-usual operatives, but certainly not all of them. Clinton was a known (if perhaps unacceptable) quantity, while Trump remains a moving target. Chances are, what change there will be, will be bad, especially for people of color, LGBTs, immigrants, Muslims, women.
“I have read that the period of upheaval that journalists have begun to refer to as ‘the Apocalypse’ or more commonly, more bitterly, ‘the Pox’ lasted from 2015 through 2030—a decade and a half of chaos.”
― Parable of the Talents
I’m not the first person who has noticed the similarity between Trump’s candidacy and the fictional candidacy of Andrew Jarrett in Octavia Butler’s novels, Parable of the Talents and Parable of the Sower, written two decades ago.
“He still knows how to rouse his rabble, how to reach out to poor people, and sic them on other poor people. How much of this nonsense does he believe, I wonder, and how much does he say just because he knows the value of dividing in order to conquer and to rule?”
Both Trump and Jarrett are charismatic candidates with ethno-nationalistic agendas. Both target Blacks, Latinos, homosexuals, and anyone whom they don’t consider to be good Christian Americans. Both call their enemies rapists and destroyers of the country, while they are accused by their opponents of being demagogues and rabble-rousers. Both Trump and Jarrett condones violence against their political opposition, but do so in a way that gives them plausible deniability. And both use the slogan, “Make America great again.”
Butler, who died ten years ago, based the character Jarrett on Ronald Reagan. I can only imagine what she would have thought of President-elect Trump.
Following the election, the message of Earthseed seems more relevant than it has ever been.
People voted for change, but it seems many did so indiscriminately. They wanted change, any change at all. And, as a result, we will all reap the whirlwind.
Is God’s most dangerous face—
Amorphous, roiling, hungry.
But we are not powerless. They sowed Change, so we must Shape it.
Last Saturday, I marched with thousands of people through the streets of Chicago, chanting “Love Trumps Hate!” (and a few other less diplomatic things). I saw a little Latina girl, who was maybe 8 years old, carrying a sign. It read: “Mr. Trump. I won’t be afraid. I’ll be loud!!!”
That, I think, is the message of Earthseed:
Alter the speed
Or the direction of Change.
Vary the scope of Change.
Recombine the seeds of Change.
Transmute the impact of Change.
Adapt and grow.
― The Book of the Living
The following day, on Sunday, at an early morning discussion group at my Unitarian church, a longtime member spoke up. For all the years I have known him, he has been indifferent at best to “social action” concerns, and sometimes even disdainful. Church for him seemed to be an exclusively inward matter. And yet, this Sunday, he spoke with enthusiasm about social action. He wanted to know how to get involved and was anxious broaden the influence of the church’s social justice work.
Adapt and grow.
Shape Change. Shape God.
For a list of ways to Shape Change following the election, check out Tony Schlisser’s recent post here.